Apart from two family members, Chinese authorities have prevented mourners from visiting the grave of mainland Tiananmen activist Li Wangyang, who died five years ago under mysterious circumstances after being interviewed by Hong Kong media.

The late activist’s sister Li Wangling told Hong Kong paper Ming Pao that – as with previous years – only she and her husband Zhao Baozhu have been able to visit Li’s grave at Dashan Mountain Cemetery in Shaoyang, Hunan province.

Li Wangling mourning her brother in Shaoyang. Photo: Ming Pao screenshot.

Zhao told the Hong Kong-based NGO Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy that friends who had planned to pay their respects at the cemetery were put under house arrest.

A video obtained by Ming Pao showed Li Wangling weeping and burning joss paper in front of the activist’s grave.

She told the outlet she was under heavy surveillance, while the Centre’s calls to her were repeatedly interrupted.

‘Committed suicide’

A workers’ rights activist from Shaoyang, Li Wangyang was jailed for 22 years after taking part in the 1989 democracy movement. He was blind and deaf when he was released from jail.

In May 2012, he was interviewed by Hong Kong’s i-Cable television network, whose reporters asked questions by writing words onto his palm and thigh. The interview was broadcast ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre that year.

On June 6 that year, Li was found dead in a hospital room where he was receiving treatment. A white cloth hanging from the window was tied around his neck, while his feet were still touching the ground, his brother-in-law Zhao said at the time. Officials said he had committed suicide and cremated his body.

The incident sparked protests in Hong Kong as many believed the “suicide” was staged.

See also: ‘The key is persistence’: 28 years on, why some Hongkongers still commemorate the Tiananmen massacre victims

Sister Li Wangling was diagnosed with cerebrovascular disease earlier this year. Ahead of the Tiananmen anniversary, she also accepted an interview from Ming Pao, saying that she needed to live in order to to witness democracy in China on behalf of her brother.

“I will never commit suicide,” she added.

In Hong Kong, the League of Social Democrats and Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki demanded an investigation into Li’s death outside the Liaison Office – Beijing’s government organ in the city – on Tuesday morning.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – organisers of Victoria Park’s June 4 vigil – will hold a commemoration ceremony for Li Wangyang at Tsim Sha Tsui’s clock tower in the evening.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.